tv Your Bottom Line CNN February 26, 2011 9:30am-10:00am EST
aspercreme breaks the grip, with maximum-strength medicine and no embarrassing odor. break the grip of pain with aspercreme. teachers in the cross hairs, cities across the country are making educators a prime target in their budget battles. why are teachers now fair game? we're set to examine the issues and the solutions. a special edition of "your bottom line: educating america" starts right now. two years ago, wall street was public enemy number one. today it's teachers? depending on you who ask they're either glorified babysitters with loads of time off or they're the very key to america's competitiveness. underappreciated and underpaid. this morning on "your bottom line," we're educating america.
this is a story about unions and collective bargaining, also a story about how well we're educating our kids. but something happened this week. this story got personal. let's get started this morning with bill bennett, cnn political contributor and former secretary of education. bill, there are 3 million teachers in america, you can't paint them all with the same brush. but one told me her profession is under attack. what's going on? >> i don't think the profession's under attack. i think teacher unions are taking some hits. and that's a different thing. i know many different teachers, thousands of teachers, i've been in thousands of schools, we have some great teachers that deserve recognition, reward, and greater pay. wf we have many in the middle and many that shouldn't be in the profession. and if they weren't in the profession, the performance of our students would dramatically improve. the most important factor has been the budgets. the restraint of budgets.
the serious situations in the state that has forced an examination of teachers in union practices that is collective bargaining, wages, salaries, working conditions. and the question arises, are they subject to the same kinds of constraints? do they have to tighten the belt in the same way everybody else does in this economy? >> and you talked about the teachers in the bottom 5% or 10% who shouldn't be in the classroom. i want to bring someone in who should be in the classroom and in the top 1%. 2010 teacher of the year. do you feel teachers are taking the heat here? or do you feel we're having an important conversation about doing more with less money? >> well, i certainly think that teachers are faced with the reality of this conversation. and the reality is that this conversation does manifest itself in that -- in the classroom. and teachers take this personally because they take their work personally. because their work is so often an extension of themselves and
they see their work and their service, you know, as they see their students becoming self-actualized and participating in the democratic society. so most certainly teachers are taking this in a very personal way. and i think that in terms of kind of this national conversation and the rhetoric that's going on, we aren't necessarily separating the issues from the teachers. instead, we are combining them in our conversations in a way that -- that points fingers and blames a lot of the problems on the teachers who in essence are functioning in a system that has been given to them. >> i want to bring in jessica, a college newspaper editor who led a team from her school paper on a road trip this week to cover all this. they went to madison, got in the car, went to madison, took the cameras. we know jessica because she was a former cnn intern, as well.
i'm sure you spoke to a lot of public workers there. did they feel this was an important examination of how to fix our problems? did they feel it was a union story? or is this a teacher story or all of those things? >> i think it is all of those things, you know. talking to people who were there. it wasn't so much about the benefits, it wasn't about the financial impact. it was about getting rid of collective bargaining and getting rid of the right to have a say in working conditions and classroom size and things like that. there are a lot students and teachers who feel that education is under attack. >> we're showing some of the pictures you took there. give me a sense of the overarching themes. it's madison -- in some cases it felt a little bit like a slumber party, i'm sure. a protest, a feel good protest or feel good rally. but tell me a little bit about the tone was there about what people think they can get done. >> well, when we got there, it was sunday night, and there were people sleeping in the capitol.
and it was kind of like a slumber party. and it was a very peaceful feel. thchbt be there haven't been any arrests made. and people are showing respect for everybody whether they grow with their opinion or not. but that peace isn't for lack of passion. the people who are there are very passionate, they're desperate, trying to get their voices heard and feel they have no other way than to sleep in the capitol or to march around the capitol 24 hours a day. >> steve perry, he's our cnn education contributor. steve, are unions good or bad for education? >> unions are bad for education. one of the things that unions do is they create a win at all costs approach. so therefore what they do is they present the working conditions that they think best suit their employees. i mean their members, not that which is best for students. we've yet to find unions supporting any form of reform that's being proposed. in fact, one of the things i find no matter where i travel in
the country is that some of america's top-performing principles and princ principals and reformers -- when a person retires, they receive 80% of their salaries for the rest of their life at the best benefits package is available to any employee. and that's where these costs are coming in. there's no attack on education. there's a realization that wh whoa -- we can't continue to give guarantees. we have to make some real tough decisions as someone who is in a school right now who is under the responsibility of making sure that children go on to college from historically disadvantaged populations i don't want to cut, but i understand that we have to make honest, hard decisions. that's not an attack. that's being big boys and girls and doing what's necessary. >> i want to bring sara here
because obviously you must be a member of the union. and for you, you have school administrators, you have your union representation, your classroom, your colleagues. there's a lot of different moving parts here. what do you think? you say unions are there to represent and create better teachers. that's a fundamental purpose of your union. >> well, certainly. i think that there's a real facet of the unions that's a professional organization. and there are movements within the union to support teachers who want to become better in their profession, who want to perfect their craft, who want to be in contact with other kinds of educators who are interested in innovation and reform and all of the things that -- that the rest of this country also wants for their students. and i think that it's unfair to say that unions or union members or teachers who belong to unions
don't have those students at the forefront of their minds all the time. >> steve, you're shaking your head here. you just -- >> the union is -- i'm in a union because i'm in a collective bargaining state. i don't have a choice, i have to pay dues to an organization that i do not wish to belong to because of the collective bargaining agreement. everyone who works in public education must belong to this organization who uses our dues to support candidates and efforts that we may not necessarily support. the unions are at their core a political organization, no different than the nra. they support politicians and causes that they feel keep their employees what they say working conditions in place. if you read the union's own website, you'll find more conversation about politics than you will about education. we can talk about we want organizations to be, what we want the unions to be, but the facts are what the facts are. what they fight for is to maintain individuals who have, they feel, been maligned by the system when we as principals try
to remove somebody we don't think is doing their job. >> we're going to handle each of these specific issues in the next 20 minutes or so. thank you so much for dropping by and letting us show your great pictures and great work. we're going to get specific. last-in, first-out. should young teachers be fired first? luckily though, ya know, i conceal this bad boy underneath my blanket just so i can get on e-trade. check my investment portfolio, research stocks... wait, why are you taking... oh, i see...solitary. just a man and his thoughts. and a smartphone... with an e-trade app. ♪ nobody knows... [ male announcer ] e-trade. investing unleashed. you struggle to control your blood sugar. you exercise and eat right, but your blood sugar may still be high, and you need extra help.
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year-long protection for on-the-go women. last-in, first-out. that means when teacher jobs are cut, the most recent hires go first regardless of how effective they are in the classroom. you said you'd have a court full of old geezers and none of that raw talent. you hate this. >> i do. because we can't have it both ways, folks. we can't say that teachers are skilled professionals who need to be judged on their capacity and then don't. then judge them on how old they are, how long they've been in the system. that's how we keep losing talent. i'm not suggesting that someone who is younger is more talented than someone who is older, but i should make that decision. i need to be able to determine whether or not this teacher is the best teacher for our school, not based upon -- it's not just -- they also get down to
something as random as your social security. meaning if you have a zero versus a one, you are the lower one so you are then removed. that's absurd. that's not how you pick teachers. >> michelle rhee is heading up an organization called students first. this week she launched a campaign to save great teachers. >> the difference between how much a child learns and an ineffective teacher's classroom versus a highly effective teacher's classroom is about three times the amount of material. when you are laying off strictly by seniority and not quality, what that results in is the district laying off some of the most highly effective teachers. >> bill, it seems logical, unless you're a 50-year-old teacher making $80,000 a year and your job gets more bang for the buck if you're trying to balance a budget. >> yeah, well, the evidence is overwhelming. what michelle rhee is talking about, what steve's talking
about. take a third gradeer in the 50th percentile. give him a poor teacher for three years, he's in the 40th or 50th percentile. a teacher isn't good because it's young, and isn't bad because it's old, but some are really good. we want to encourage them in the classroom. some people who are old are very wise and very gifted. some people who are old aren't very good anymore. it happens in all professions, happens in teaching. if we really mean merit and accountability and we want to improve the system, then we ought to reward it. by the way, there needs to be more rewards and recognitions of people like sara. and the problem with the teachers union is that they give no more recognition to sarah, no more pay to sara th. >> let's listen to michelle rhee's math here.
>> when you do seniority-based layoffs is much, much more than what they would be if they were quality-based layoffs. in fact, the best estimates say that you could save about 30% of the jobs that are laid off, you could save those if you were doing them by quality instead of seniority. >> i want to bring in kate walsh, the president for the national council on teacher quality. kate, is the perception true that tenure is earned too easily and too quickly in education? >> it's absolutely true. in states across the country, the average time in which it takes to enttenure is two to th years. it's amazing that it is such an automatic decision because it is -- it is effectively a school system saying we're prepared to invest $2 million in you over the life of your career. so it's a very serious decision that's treated very lightly. >> bill, i know you want to jump in here.
>> well, just the focus has been on teachers. teachers are important, very important jobs, we should reward great teachers. but let's remember, it's about the students. the focus should be on who serves the students best. that's where the emphasis needs to be on education. not how teachers feel, whether they feel the governor likes them or not. but who can educate our kids? that's got to be the question. >> and there's other moving parts too. we're going to get to this in the next few minutes. but a lot of moving parts like, for example, parents, adde administrators. and bill, thanks for being with us. i appreciate your time. thanks so much. steve, kate, stay right where you are. up next, an elementary lesson in teacher economics. where is all of this money going anyway? and how come there never seems to be enough?
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year. 100,000 over the next decade. steve, kate, sara, i want you to weigh in on this response we got from a high school math teacher who recently retired after 36 years. he said in light of the public vitriol he asks, "do you actually believe that people proficient in math and science would ever think seriously about going into a classroom to instruct when they could easily pull down twice as much money for far less grief?" is this the environment to get good >> i think, again, so much of our conversations seem to assume that the only thing that's going to get and retain good teachers in the classroom are monetary compensations. and i think what teachers really need is, we need to continue to work to elevate the profession so that we get highly qualified, you know, scientists and math that titions to be in the classroom because they feel supported there, they feel like they can grow as a pprofessiona
there and they're making a difference there. >> elementary school teachers make $50,000 a year. high school teachers make a little bit more. but it's hard to compare with other professions because of time-off and benefits. you're trying to encourage people from the private sector to come into education, aren't benefits -- isn't time off -- some of the things you use to encourage people to come? >> i don't know that's the case. i know one of the things -- one of the things she said i agree with is that, many people don't get into education because they're expected to make a ton of money. you get into it because you love it you're called to do this, and that's what people want. they want to work in an environment where they're going make an impact, be on a winning team, a team of educators who make big strides in young people's lives. it's not about the money. we spend too much time talking about benefits and other monetary examples of how we inspire people to participate in
education. i know there are quite a few people who would leave their current professions to become teachers if they didn't think their job would be in jeopardy because they're the first one in. >> i want to pose this to you, and i want to bring kate in. should each teacher be paid on the base zahra on the quality o or her work on on the standard scale basis? 61% said the basis of their work. by 201071%. standard scale basis, last year 27% of people thought teacher should be paid on a standard scale. kate? >> in theory we wholeheartedly agree with the premise teachers should earn based on quality of their work and program, it's more difficult to carry out, there's a lot of states struggling with exactly this question, a lot of districts, how do we begin to reward teachers for the work that they
do. so the problem is, when you base it only on test scores, that's a very imperfect, imprecise and not particularly fair measure by which to judge a teacher's profession on. >> steve perry, thank you. kate walsh on teacher quality, thank you. sarah brown wesley, teacher of the year. a teacher and a corrects officer walk into a protest, if one doesn't do their job, the other gets a new client. plus -- would you stand for 60 kids in your child's classroom. >> ♪ i have clients say it's really hard to save for the future and they've come to a point where it's overwhelming. oh gee, i'm scared to tell you i've got this amount of credit card debt or i've got a 15-year-old and we never got around to saving for their college. that's when i go to work. we talk, we start planning. we can fix this. when clients walk out of my office they feel confident about their retirement.
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your kid being in a classroom with 60 children? that's something that could be a reality in detroit. >> yeah it could. we were just talking before about sort of a lack of any real data that says it's a problem for kids. i worry about teacher's sanity, 60 kids in a classroom. but that's what's happening. the reality is that people are fleeing thety of detroit. let's show you the numbers. detroit's population over the last decade fell 20% but schools saw 50% decline in enrollment. what this is across detroit, they're picking up their kids, taking them to the suburbs. they don't trust the detroit public schools. >> putting them in private schools. >> every time you take a kid out of a detroit public school the system loses $7600 so it's a vicious cycle. when you look at the man trying to fix it the emergency financial manager, put in charge of fixing a massive budget gap $327 million. if you look at these statistics
of what he says is going to happen, it's astonishing. all right, this is the only way to close the gap, so we're going to have to close 70 more schools in detroit. that will leave only 72 public schools open by 2014. they closed 59 public schools last year. so they're whittling these down by the dozens. that would mean 60 kids per high school class. >> detroit's problems are detroit's problems. look at wisconsin where the problems are completely different, but it is at its core a budget problem. and a union problem. we tease deb, coming into the segment, by saying a teacher and a corrections officer walk into protest, if one doesn't do their job, the other gets a new client. >> exactly right. what they're fighting for the unions want to be so vocal so they don't lose the right to be able to bargain, get wages that are better, standards and conditions that are better. they feel in that's take an way from them, they've got nothing. these are dedicated
professionals. they work for lower wages, for the most part, and rely on things like their health care, their pensions, all that sort of adds up. it's not to say they could find a krjob in a private sector but they want a fair way so they can continue being part of the middle class. think about it, if you've got 60 kids in the classroom, what does that mean for that one teacher? why would you, as a teacher, want to be dplclassroom with 60 children? it doesn't make sense. >> a teacher said a lot of the rhetoric -- look, if you look how america's doing on standerized tests are teachers glorified baby-sitters? she said i'd make much more money as a baby-sitter. bill bennett would say there's 5% to 10% of teachers who should not be in the classroom because they're ineffective. it's things like collective bargain that allowed them to stay in the classroom. >> you can change the system, you can look at the unions, you can say we need to revamp the